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Aristotle - The Organon ANALYTICA PRIORIA Book 2 Part 14

Demonstration per impossibile differs from ostensive proof

1. Demonstration per impossibile differs from ostensive proof in that it posits what it wishes to refute by reduction to a statement admitted to be false; whereas ostensive proof starts from admitted positions. Both, indeed, take two premisses that are admitted, but the latter takes the premisses from which the syllogism starts, the former takes one of these, along with the contradictory of the original conclusion. Also in the ostensive proof it is not necessary that the conclusion should be known, nor that one should suppose beforehand that it is true or not: in the other it is necessary to suppose beforehand that it is not true. It makes no difference whether the conclusion is affirmative or negative; the method is the same in both cases. Everything which is concluded ostensively can be proved per impossibile, and that which is proved per impossibile can be proved ostensively, through the same terms. Whenever the syllogism is formed in the first figure, the truth will be found in the middle or the last figure, if negative in the middle, if affirmative in the last. Whenever the syllogism is formed in the middle figure, the truth will be found in the first, whatever the problem may be. Whenever the syllogism is formed in the last figure, the truth will be found in the first and middle figures, if affirmative in first, if negative in the middle. Suppose that A has been proved to belong to no B, or not to all B, through the first figure. Then the hypothesis must have been that A belongs to some B, and the original premisses that C belongs to all A and to no B. For thus the syllogism was made and the impossible conclusion reached. But this is the middle figure, if C belongs to all A and to no B. And it is clear from these premisses that A belongs to no B. Similarly if has been proved not to belong to all B. For the hypothesis is that A belongs to all B; and the original premisses are that C belongs to all A but not to all B. Similarly too, if the premiss CA should be negative: for thus also we have the middle figure. Again suppose it has been proved that A belongs to some B. The hypothesis here is that is that A belongs to no B; and the original premisses that B belongs to all C, and A either to all or to some C: for in this way we shall get what is impossible. But if A and B belong to all C, we have the last figure. And it is clear from these premisses that A must belong to some B. Similarly if B or A should be assumed to belong to some C.

2. Again suppose it has been proved in the middle figure that A belongs to all B. Then the hypothesis must have been that A belongs not to all B, and the original premisses that A belongs to all C, and C to all B: for thus we shall get what is impossible. But if A belongs to all C, and C to all B, we have the first figure. Similarly if it has been proved that A belongs to some B: for the hypothesis then must have been that A belongs to no B, and the original premisses that A belongs to all C, and C to some B. If the syllogism is negative, the hypothesis must have been that A belongs to some B, and the original premisses that A belongs to no C, and C to all B, so that the first figure results. If the syllogism is not universal, but proof has been given that A does not belong to some B, we may infer in the same way. The hypothesis is that A belongs to all B, the original premisses that A belongs to no C, and C belongs to some B: for thus we get the first figure.

3. Again suppose it has been proved in the third figure that A belongs to all B. Then the hypothesis must have been that A belongs not to all B, and the original premisses that C belongs to all B, and A belongs to all C; for thus we shall get what is impossible. And the original premisses form the first figure. Similarly if the demonstration establishes a particular proposition: the hypothesis then must have been that A belongs to no B, and the original premisses that C belongs to some B, and A to all C. If the syllogism is negative, the hypothesis must have been that A belongs to some B, and the original premisses that C belongs to no A and to all B, and this is the middle figure. Similarly if the demonstration is not universal. The hypothesis will then be that A belongs to all B, the premisses that C belongs to no A and to some B: and this is the middle figure.

4. It is clear then that it is possible through the same terms to prove each of the problems ostensively as well. Similarly it will be possible if the syllogisms are ostensive to reduce them ad impossibile in the terms which have been taken, whenever the contradictory of the conclusion of the ostensive syllogism is taken as a premiss. For the syllogisms become identical with those which are obtained by means of conversion, so that we obtain immediately the figures through which each problem will be solved. It is clear then that every thesis can be proved in both ways, i.e. per impossibile and ostensively, and it is not possible to separate one method from the other.


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